“Haul on the Bowline”


Shanty. Characteristic line: "Haul on the bowline, the bowline haul!" The lyrics may relate to the singer's friendship with Kitty on Liverpool (or elsewhere), or perhaps complain about a sailor's life.


Doerflinger says of this song, "Its unusual antiquity is shown by the fact that not since the sixteenth or early seventeenth century has the term 'bowline' been used for any rope on which a shanty would be sung."

Bone makes this statement even stronger; "'Haul on th' bowlin'... is probablly the oldest song we know at sea. The bowline has not been an important rope since, in about 1500, staysails were put in use to hold a ship on a wind. Before that date, the bowline was doutbless of stout cordage to haul the weather leech of a square-sail forward when the old carrack was sailing with the wind abeam. But, although a bowline of sorts was used in modern square rig, it could be set taut by a hand or two."

Linscott claims, without citing a source, that it "is said to have been a favorite in the time of Henry VIII" (1509-1547). Shay reports the same, again without a source. - RBW


  • Joseph Hyson, "Haul the Alabama Bowline" (on NovaScotia1)
  • Richard Maitland, "Haul the Bowline" (AFS, 1939; on LC26)
  • Stanley Slade & chorus: "Haul On the Bowlin'" (on Lomax41, LomaxCD1741)


  1. Doerflinger, pp. 9-10, "Haul on the Bowline" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Colcord, pp. 42-43, "Haul on the Bowline" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Harlow, pp. 95-96, "Haul the Bowline" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Hugill, pp. 354-357, "Haul the Bowline" (2 texts, 2 tunes) [AbEd, pp. 266-269]
  5. Sharp-EFC, XXXVII, p. 42, "Haul on the Bow-line" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Linscott, pp. 139-140, "Haul the Bowline" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  7. Greenleaf/Mansfield 167, "Haul on the Bo'line" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Scott-BoA, p. 131, "Haul on the Bowline" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 12-13, "Haul on the Bowline" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Smith/Hatt, p. 33, "Haul the Alabama Bowline" (1 text)
  11. Bone, pp. 38-39, "Haul on th' Bowlin'" (1 short text, 1 tune)
  12. Shay-SeaSongs, p. 27, "Haul on the Bowline" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Darling-NAS, p. 310, "Haul on the Bowlin'" (1 text)
  14. Silber-FSWB, p. 87, "Haul on the Bowline" (1 text)
  16. ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "Haul the Bowline" is in Part 3, 7/28/1917, one verse only.
  17. Roud #652
  18. BI, Doe009b


Alternate titles: “Haul Away the Bowline”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1869
Keywords: shanty nonballad sailor
Found in: US(MA,NE) Canada(Mar,Newf)